The business world offers many differing opinions regarding the leadership vs management debate. In 1989, Warren Bennis listed a dramatic comparison between leaders and managers. Differences included concepts such as “The manager imitates; the leader originates” and “The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.” As one might imagine, the final picture of the manager isn’t very flattering, and we imagine the leader to be the hero riding upon a horse into the sunset.
Image courtesy of Sebastiaan ter Burg via Flickr
The real story is that the two labels aren’t mutually exclusive. Both leaders and manager have their strengths which are absolutely necessary and useful. We noted in a previous post that everyone in business should constantly analyze their strengths and evaluate where they need growth. That’s not to say that leadership and management have distinctly different implications and meanings. But the assumption that they are as unmixable as oil and water is a faulty assumption.
According to Dr. John Kotter at Harvard Business School, “…management is a set of well-known processes…which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week.” This is a more difficult task than most people without this experience realize. It allows companies to maintain their credibility and follow-through on their claims and promises.
On the other hand, Kotter continues, “Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities.” It’s in this area where the business world throws around its favorite buzzword of “innovation.”
To help clarify, below we’ve included eight different strengths and weakness of managers and leaders. There are certainly many more, but based on our experience, these factors are key:
You want to make sure that something gets done and that nothing falls through the cracks? Call over the managers. This strength is founded on a foundation of work ethic and helps build trust from those around them. Dependability is built through consistent follow-through day after day. It’s not glamorous, but it’s absolutely necessary.
Managers have a knack for organizing teams to efficiently get the job done. They are able to connect people together in order to complete a task and usually have a great understanding of process. They can sketch out timelines and deadlines and usually stick to them.
Managers can often get so caught up in the details that they fail to “see the forest for the trees.” They can get stuck in a rut and forget to look for better solutions and innovations to a common process. In the focus to accomplish a task, they often forget why they are doing what they’re doing.
Resistance to Change
Once comfortable with a system, managers tend to resist any change to the system. They take on a “this-is-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it” attitude because fear of the unknown cripples their desire to try new things. While skepticism of new ideas is healthy in small doses, too much stubbornness can prevent growth in an organization.
Effective leaders tend to be passionate about their ideas and values. This enthusiasm usually helps bring other people aboard and inspires people to follow. A great idea presented in a boring way doesn’t usually garner involvement. That’s why inspiration is necessary in a world constantly focused on innovating and finding the “next big thing.”
Leaders look for new approaches to old ideas. In other words, he or she innovates and thinks outside the box. By approaching old problems from a new angle, leaders allow new ideas to flow freely. This practice of brainstorming allows leaders to build new ideas lay out foundations. The next step is build a game plan around that idea.
Leaders (especially inexperienced ones) often jump straight into their ideas without much forethought or planning. The result is oftentimes a slow start or — more often than not — failure. While the initial idea may be a great one, the appropriate approach is necessary in order to create long-term success.
They say love is blind, and often, this can happen when leaders won’t let go of their pet projects. They have been so caught up in their ideas, that they forget that they need to actually recognize whether or not the project is feasible or not. If the market isn’t ripe or if there isn’t a good game plan, then maybe it’s time to ditch the project or start from square one.
While most people lean strongly in one direction or the other, for the most part, people are usually never 100% managers or leaders. Both of these traits are vital in a well-run organization. Leaders need managers in order to make sure things actually get done, and managers need leaders in order keep the flow of innovation. Instead of making the debate ‘leadership vs management,’ the new argument should be how can we integrate leadership with management and vice versa. Most of us have some aspects of these skills (and weaknesses).
For those of you who relate more to the manager qualities and hope to make the transition into leadership, stretch yourself by consciously putting yourself in positions which require you to act as a leader. No, it may not be natural at first, but gradual stretching will allow for growth. This does not mean you need to sacrifice your manager strengths in order to become a leader. In fact, it will actually be to your advantage if you possess strengths of both personalities. But the road to leadership ends in the ability to broaden your range of influence and to encourage those around. You just need to ask the right questions and be willing to grow.